The United States has blamed China for a breakdown in talks over an expended Information Technology Agreement under the banner of the World Trade Organization.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman on Wednesday said in a statement that China’s current position on the agreement had forced other parties to suspend talks in Geneva this week.
“The United States is extremely disappointed that it became necessary today to suspend negotiations to expand the Information Technology Agreement (ITA),” he said. “Unfortunately, a diverse group of members participating in the negotiations determined that China’s current position makes progress impossible at this stage. We are hopeful that China will carefully consider the concerns it heard this week from many of its negotiating partners, and revise its position in a way that will allow the prompt resumption of the negotiations.”
The talks are aimed at reducing tariffs on technology products as negotiators have sought for months to update the ITA, which was written in 1996.
China is one of 20 members on the negotiation panel, along with the United States and European Union.
“Negotiators had hoped to finish the deal this week, working from a draft list of 256 technology products targeted for tariff elimination,” Reuters
reported. “But apparently under pressure to protect domestic industries and preserve tariff revenues, China identified 148 ‘sensitive’ products that it either wanted to exclude from tariff cuts or reserve for long tariff phase-outs.”
The impetus for renegotiating the agreement comes from a desire to include products that were left out of the original agreement, such as semiconductor manufacturing equipment, certain types of memory chips, as well many types of audio-visual equipment such as speakers, DVD players and video cameras, Reuters
It’s estimated the revised ITA could affect the trade of more than $800 billion in IT products. Advocates of the revisions are hopeful a deal can be reached during the WTO ministerial meeting in Bali in December. - Eric Johnson